The Shadow Labyrinth: A LitRPG Adventure (Kingmaker Saga Book 5)
The Shadow Labyrinth: A LitRPG Adventure (Kingmaker Saga Book 5)
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- Epic Fantasy
- Secondary World
A new danger looms on the horizon as a murderous horde of warriors plan to invade the continent. With throngs of enemies approaching their shores, Terran must locate a black crystal and become the game's most powerful Crystal Bard if he has any hope of defending the Mother Tree and the denizens of Belwar. But the only known crystal is guarded by a creature whose awakening could threaten the entire world, leaving him with an impossible choice.
Intro Into Chapter One
Intro Into Chapter One
The dusty road leading to Gneiss Glen wound through the trees, a canopy of oranges and reds providing shade from the bright sun. The spears of light that made it through forced Terran to squint whenever they hit him in the face.
"Damn light," he muttered.
After Andelain had sacrificed herself to make him a demigod at the place of power, Terran had hesitated to return to the Glen. He would be much different than when he'd left. What would they think of him? Would they think that he'd taken his power from Andelain? They had to know that the Mother Tree no longer existed in the same way as it had before.
Rather than teleport directly into the settlement, he chose to land outside the territory and make his way on foot so he might see the changes wrought and formulate a plan on how he could explain what had happened. It wasn't that he didn't want to tell the truth, but he worried that the truth wasn't believable.
Terran sensed the guard long before he saw the Rock Leaf Elf perched in the oak, bow lying across his knees. It came as a surprise. It was like knowing where the sun was based on how it felt against his face. Was he connected to the trees and that's how he could sense the elf, or was it directly through the bloodline?
"Lord Terran?" The elf's surprise made him stand tall on the branch, and he nearly toppled in his haste. "Why are you on foot? Am I in trouble? I've been keeping watch as Lhoris commanded."
"Jarni, right?" asked Terran, looking up into the young elf's face and remembering his name from rounds with the commander.
"Yes, my lord."
Terran chuckled. "Just Terran will be fine."
Jarni blinked as he stared down. "Have you...are you...?"
"What?" asked Terran.
The young elf screwed up his face. "I...I don't know. You look...different."
As an NPC, Jarni couldn't see the tags and meta-information that Offworlders could, but Terran's demigod status was apparent to him. That could be a problem when he returned. He was planning on telling everyone, but in his own time. If they could see he was different, he'd have to confront the issue right away.
"My journey was difficult and changed much. I will explain to the tribe in due time."
Jarni seemed a little confused, as he kept nodding his head repeatedly. "Yes, my...Terran, uhm, that sounds, yeah, it sounds."
"Keep up the good work out here. I'll let Lhoris know that you were alert and spotted me from a good distance," said Terran with a wink as he kept walking.
Jarni lifted his bow in salute. "Thankyouthankyou, Lord Terran!"
The encounter with the young elf highlighted another change. His charisma and leadership scores had gotten quite high. He'd seen the effects in Dagrath when he'd become Champion of the Arena, and within his tribe, it would be easy to use this to his advantage.
As Terran climbed the path that led to the front gate, he heard melodic whistling carrying through the trees. Moments later, the jovial elf Jondar appeared, a grin plastered on his lips, his half-lidded eyes signaling his contentedness. The state of his disheveled clothing made it clear to Terran where he'd been, and without trying, he could sense the lady elf heading the other way around the hill.
"Jondar. Did you have a nice nap in the clearing? That's quite a lot of grass stuck to your knees," smirked Terran.
His former teacher's eyes went wide, first with a smile, then his lips flattened with worry.
"My lord," said Jondar, dropping to one knee, gaze firmly planted on the ground.
"Jondar, it's me, Terran. Shadows below, you used to torture me with your training exercises, I think we're long past honorifics," said Terran.
Jondar cleared his throat as he rose to his feet. "I'm sorry, Terran. I wasn't expecting to see you, and when I did, uhm, it was quite surprising. You have a glow about you." His forehead wrinkled. "Did something happen at the place of power?"
Terran's chest tightened. "Did Zara tell you I was headed there?"
"Of course. Was it supposed to be a secret?"
"No," said Terran. "I don't know. It's been a weird couple of days."
The way Jondar was staring at him made him a little uncomfortable. If his former teacher was enamored by his change, how would the rest of the tribe react?
"Forgive me for asking," said Jondar, keeping his expression and tone formal. "Were you successful at restoring the Mother Tree?"
Terran reacted immediately because he hadn't expected that they wouldn't notice. He glanced at the reds and oranges resplendent in the leaves. How would they know? He cleared his throat. "It's complicated. I will explain it in good time."
"Very well," said Jondar, inclining his head deferentially.
"Jondar, please," he said, slapping his friend on the shoulder. "I'm not royalty. You don't need to bow and scrape."
"My apologies," said Jondar, raising an eyebrow as he glanced at him sideways. "When I look at you, I feel like I've let you down, that I should be working for the good of the Glen rather than pleasing the ladies of the settlement."
"As long as the ladies are willing, such pleasure is good. The events surrounding us are quite difficult, we should find things that make us happy while we can," said Terran, hearing the echoes of Zara's words to him about Della. He felt bad that he'd left Dagrath without saying goodbye, but his heart was still with Chanterelle and he didn't want to put her in any more danger.
"Thank you, lord...sorry, Terran," said Jondar.
"Just imagine me half naked, climbing out of the lake with that stupid rock. I'm sure that will dispel any illusions of grandeur that have attached themselves to my visage," said Terran, chuckling.
Jondar's cheeks were turning redder as they climbed.
"Are you well? You look like you're about to pass out," said Terran.
The jovial elf wiped his forehead. "You're moving quite quickly up the hill. I'm having a difficult time keeping up is all."
Terran realized the elf was right. He'd been churning up the hill with little thought to the effort. His newfound vitality was surprising. He could see how becoming a god would be enticing, especially if this was just his demi-status. Terran slowed his pace, glancing at the gate that led into the settlement, pausing.
"Is there a problem?" asked Jondar.
"Just that I'm not sure I'm ready to cause a stir with my return. It seems the changes that have come over me are affecting people. Shame I had the gate installed before I left," said Terran.
Jondar bit his lower lip. "I may know a secret entrance to the settlement, one that is very useful for extricating young ladies who prefer to let their healthy appetites be quiet. At least while they're in the settlement."
Terran chuckled. "Lead on, my friend. Lead on."
After cutting off the main path, they circled the hill, finding a narrow ravine that led to the bramble wall. Even without looking he could tell no guards were currently patrolling the trees, which left them free to pass. Jondar hummed a song and the thorns and branches parted, revealing a person-sized hole.
"Thank you, Jondar," said Terran on the other side.
The elf nodded. "Shall I gather the others for a council meeting?"
A whirlwind of emotions was spinning through Terran. He wasn't ready to face them yet. He had something he needed to do first.
"No. I'll call them when I'm ready. But first I must..."
Jondar's gaze flitted to the direction of the Mother Tree. "I understand. I will leave you now."
The enormous tree had whitish bark and a trunk that extended higher than the surrounding canopies, creating an umbrella of bright leaves. To remain unseen, Terran moved into the central chamber, where he placed his hands on the smooth curved wood and closed his eyes, inhaling the fresh scent of the trees. There was a vibration deep within but it lacked the signature that marked it as the home of Andelain. It was alive, but not sentient.
"She truly is gone."
During any part of his journey through the Rock Leaf Forest, he could have brought up the settlement interface, but it'd felt disrespectful to her memory to peruse the stats and information as if that's all the Mother Tree had been. Andelain had been an Offworlder like him, trying to do the best for the people around him, and now she was gone and her responsibilities were transferred to him.
Settlement: Gneiss Glen
Vassal State: Wunderlust Keep
The interface was different upon opening. No longer was there an option for changing the name of the settlement from Gneiss Glen, not that he would have ever, but it was locked in for good. The settlement was still level 3, but it no longer marked the number of essences that he'd returned. Ignoring the other information, he tabbed through the screens until he found the section that detailed what it would take to achieve the next level.
Resources required for Level 4 Settlement
24/30 seeds planted
3/10 Level 1 Buildings
2/5 Level 2 Buildings
0/2 Level 3 Buildings
The list wasn't as onerous as Terran first feared. The essences made it simpler to achieve new levels, but these requirements weren't unattainable, especially when he checked the status of his buildings, which was where the majority of the work would be needed.
Seeds grown: 28/30
Days until next seed harvesting: 2
Total Buildings: 24/30
Barracks (Level 2) 1/1
Fungi Garden (Level 0) 1/3
Shaman Hut (Level 0) 1/1
Chieftain Hut (Level 0) 1/1
Orchard (Level 1) 1/3
Leaf Armory (Level 1) 1/1
Weaponmaker (Level 2) 1/1
Crystalline Conservatory (Level 0) 1/1
Aviary (Level 1) 1/1
Archery Range (Level 0) 1/1
Inn (Level 0) 1/1
Trading Post (Level 0) 1/1
Healers Hall (Level 0) 1/1
Arborist Lab (Level 0) 1/1
Already he could see he had four seeds to plant. Thankfully, Elia, the elf in charge of keeping the trees healthy, could keep the seeds alive until he returned, unlike the early times when he'd had to get them into the soil quickly or they'd wither.
As if she'd been summoned by his thoughts, Elia appeared at the entrance, backlit by the afternoon sun filtering through the trees. Her tunic hung loosely on her slender frame.
"I just returned," he said.
Her expression shifted from agony to adulation, as if she didn't know what to make of her own feelings. He should have known that Elia, more than anyone in the Glen, would have known.
The old elf looked ready to break in two. "Is she...?"
"Yes. I'm sorry."
A brief stabbing glance felt like accusation, but then Elia averted her gaze. "How could it happen?"
He hadn't planned on explaining it yet, but the pain on her face told him he couldn't wait longer. "When Grimchar took her essences and used them for his own regeneration, he stole' the last of her vitality. She was dying." Elia nodded as this was a fact she already knew. "I thought there might be a way to fix her, return that strength through the place of power, but she gave it to me instead. What little she had left."
Elia's eyes widened with understanding, then creased at the corners. "I see it, but there is a strange double glow. The first I sense as her remains, but there is a second, like a shadow over the first."
A breath caught in Terran's throat. "I am shadow-touched. We fought the Lady of Shadows' minions in Dagrath."
"May I approach, Lord Terran?" asked Elia.
"You were one of the first elves in the settlement, when I was a wet-behind-the-ears newb. Lord Terran is unnecessary," he said.
She approached and rested her fingertips on his face, staring into his eyes. Her touch was soft, but clinical. He felt like when he was checked out by the doctors on the Reliant. After a minute of examination, she said, "I cannot see its purpose beyond the surface, but I worry."
"How...can you see this in me?" he asked.
She lifted a shoulder, spreading her hands. "You are the tree. The tree is you. As it is my task to keep the Mother Tree healthy, I can see it's changed you, and just like the rot, I worry it has a nefarious purpose."
You have been offered a quest: Learn what's going on with shadow-touched.
I'm sure it's fine…totally fine, amiright?
"I do as well," he said, mentally dismissing the pop-up. "The Lady either means to destroy us or assimilate us into her empire."
"Bad for sure," said Elia.
"What should I do?" he asked.
Elia shifted her petite mouth to the side. "I will think upon it, consult with Ash. Maybe between the two of us we can find a solution."
"Please keep this confidential. I don't want anyone to worry," said Terran.
Elia nodded. "I will get to work on it right away."
After she left he scratched the back of his neck. He should call the council, but he wasn't ready to deal with the changes. Maybe he could sneak up to his hut in the canopy and take a nap before things got rolling again.
He'd made it ten feet from the base of the tree when he heard a familiar womanly squeal. Running from his right was one Della, owner of the Golden Kumquat, with her arms spread wide, looking like she was going to gobble him up.
Terran has to get a black crystal to stop a horde of warriors. There is only one crystal and it keeps the monster from eating the world/resetting the game. Terran is advancing through the game and the challenges are becoming harder. An interesting action, adventure with twist and turns and wonderful characters.